In this article you can read all about the 13 Christmas episodes of Doctor Who.
Since Doctor Who started a new era, with a new Doctor, new companions who now are called fam (family), a new showrunner, even a new composer, the Christmas episodes also came to an end, being replaced by New Years episodes. This leaves us without Doctor Who at Christmas time, but we can always return to these magical episodes. I have listed them all in order by date and not ranked, because although I do have my favorites and some are better than others, they all spark that wonderful Christmas epic feel full of joy, happy tears and the Christmas Spirit.
The Christmas Invasion (2005)
The very first Christmas episode of the new series starts off with a blast and with a regeneration that brings us a brand new Doctor. Two brand new Doctors actually because the ninth Doctor is about to change into the tenth Doctor while an alien invasion is going on. What can possibly go wrong. Well, Rose saved the Doctor and Captain Jack from the Daleks, but now she had all the energy of the TARDIS inside of her which the Doctor took back from her with a kiss… But now he has to regenerate, just when the Sycorax are about to invade Earth and a giant spaceship is hovering above London, mind-controlling the people. And Rose isn’t used to the new Doctor yet who’s wild and intense. Meanwhile they are also attacked by Christmas trees and robotic Santa’s. What a way to introduce a new Doctor who is still recovering and who’s also a bit of a maniac and funny and very combative. And when his hand gets chopped off in battle he’s still regenerating and gets a fighting hand instead. It’s brilliant and it’s also more up to Rose to save the day, while the new Doctor is still sleeping and regenerating. But not only the Doctor has changed, so did the relationship between him and Rose and the Earth is forever changed and made itself notable to the whole Galaxy. So now they have to be prepared for more invasions. Luckily they have the Doctor, the Defender of Earth.
The Christmas Invasion was directed by James Hawes and written by Russell T. Davies.
The Runaway Bride (2006)
Donna is about to have her Christmas dream wedding when she suddenly disappears while walking down the aisle and turns up in the TARDIS. What a way to start an adventure. And Donna isn’t happy about it at all and thinks the Doctor is just a crazy alien who abducted her, bringing out even more the Bridzilla in her. But the Doctor is as surprised as she is! So they have to solve why she suddenly appeared in the TARDIS and she also wants to make it back on time to her own wedding. It’s the beginning of a very hilarious adventure with the reluctant Donna, a super exciting car-TARDIS chase and a giant Christmas Star that appears high in the sky above London. A Christmas Star that maybe looks very Christmassy but it belongs to the Racnoss Empress who just happens to have a very Christmas-like spaceship and who needs huon particles to awaken her children who were trapped inside the earth billions of years ago. But to add some more Christmas horror adventure, the robotic Santa Clauses also show up and wreck some havoc at Donna’s wedding. To make matters worse her fiancé isn’t at all who he says he is. Poor Donna who had a terrible wedding and a terrible Christmas. But her little exciting adventure with the Doctor is far from over, even if she says he’s a weird spaceman. This second Christmas episode is a very comical one with a great new soon-to-be companion and with an alien villain who will scare the kids.
The Runaway Bride was directed by Euros Lyn and written by Russell T. Davies.
The Voyage of the Damned (2007)
The Doctor is in collusion with the one and only Titanic. Spaceship Titanic that is. Of course the Doctor is always in for a little adventure but he wasn’t prepared for a sort of Poseidon adventure. He meets Astrid, a waitress who wants to travel amongst the stars and a few other guests, when all hell breaks loose and the Titanic is on grand collision course with Earth and is going to hit Buckingham Palace. Luckily for everyone on board and on Earth the Doctor tries anything in his power to stop the catastrophe. But at a great cost. He and some other survivors try to make their way through to ship to the bridge and it will be a devastating and heartbreaking journey of sacrifice and courage. This is a very exciting adventure but before it all starts we also meet shortly Donna’s grandfather on a short excursion to Earth. With a very diverse group of people, this disaster movie episode is a great rollercoaster of an adventure. And we also learn something about our own habits of Christmas seen through the eyes of aliens and The Hosts on board look like huge Christmas Angels, but are in fact not benign at all. Prepare yourself for a great adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat and that has the most heartbreaking moments.
The Voyage of the Damned is directed by James Strong and written by Russell T. Davies.
The Next Doctor (2008)
The Doctor had to say a heartbreaking goodbye to Rose who is forever stuck in an alternate dimension with her own alternate Doctor. Martha is running an alien hunter business with Mickey. And poor Donna’s memory had to be erased after she became the epic Doctor Donna. So the Doctor is all alone and ends up in 1851 in Victorian London. All very Christmassy wouldn’t it be for that he misses his friends. But then her hears someone calling out his name. And to his big surprise he meets his future self, another Doctor with his own companion Rosita. But things aren’t always what they seem and Dickensian London is about to be conquered by Miss Mercy Hartigan who has made a deal with the Cybermen and is secretly building a gigantic Cyber King with child slaves. One of those kids is the Doctor’s or better said, the son of the supposedly next doctor who is just a man Jackson Lake, who has lost too much in a short time and his mind has been compromised by infostamps that taught him all about the Doctor. It’s a tragic story of grief and loss, but it’s also a great adventure with a hot air balloon as the TARDIS, very creepy Cybershade and an impressive massive Cyber King. Set in a very Christmassy Dickensian background it has all the ingredients for an exciting Christmas.
The Next Doctor is directed by Andy Goddard and written by Russell T. Davies.
The End of Time (2009)
The End of Time is a two-parter Christmas and New Years episode that is the last one in a row of specials that conclude the time of the Tenth Doctor before he has to regenerate again. It’s his grand finale and he is not going out without a bang. And we see an old familiar face who is a great new companion, Donna’s grandfather Wilf Mott. It’s Christmas time and everybody is having strange dreams. So Wilf goes out looking for the Doctor with a couple of fierce oldies. But the Doctor has just come from a meeting with the Ood who had a special message for him: that his song will end. When he learns that the Master has returned, who has been risen by a cult, and who wants revenge now more than ever, the Doctor has to stop him. It comes to a big conformation between the former friends but it also has some pretty dark surprises for the Doctor. And that has everything to do with the drums inside the Master’s head and Rassilon the Lord Ruler of Gallifrey and with Gallifrey itself when it is about to be destroyed. These drums were Rassilon’s masterplan to escape the destruction and served as a link to travel through time. The Doctor has to deal with multiple evil masterplans and is even able to stop them both. But at an ironic cost. His fate to regenerate is inevitable and before he changes he looks up his old companions for a proper but sad goodbye. It’s a very epic and beautiful episode that honors the Tenth Doctor in a great way.
The End of Time is directed by Euros Lyn and written by Russell T. Davies.
A Christmas Carol (2010)
A new decade and a new Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor who is a very comic and physical Doctor and who’s in for fun and adventure. When his new companion Amy celebrates her honeymoon with her husband Rory on a space cruise ship, a gift from the Doctor, the honeymoon is about to turn into a catastrophe heading towards an alien planet. Of course they call in the help of the Doctor who soon discovers what made the cruise ship’s controls go mad. And there’s an easy way to fix it, weren’t it for the old Scrooge figure who controls the sky and atmosphere of the planet and the electric clouds. Karzan Sardick is the only one who can stop it but he refuses. So the Doctor comes up with a brilliant plan and goes back in time to change young Karzan. Together with young Karzan he discovers a cryogenics storeroom where people are stored frozen and when they open one, they meet the lovely Abigail. These people serve as payment or as security for loans. They spent a wonderful Christmas Eve together and every year they come to get her, until Karzan is old enough to fall in love with her. But she is ill and only has one more Evening left. Stil turning Karzan in a bitter old man. So the Doctor has to play the parts of the ghost of Christmas Future and Christmas Present as well. It’s a wonderful and magical and also a funny episode but tears will be shed.
A Christmas Carol is directed by Toby Haynes and written by Steven Moffat.
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011)
This is by far my favorite Doctor Who Christmas episode. It’s a great adventure and full of epic moments, grief, courage, female power, the love of a mother, an alien world and tragedy and sad and happy tears all at once. This episode embodies the Christmas Spirit in many ways. The Doctor is falling from space but manages just in time to put on a spacesuit, but funny enough, it’s backwards. So she he falls to earth, sometime before 1941. Madge Arwell who’s driving home sees the crash and helps him, and in return he says she can call on him whenever she needs him. In 1941 Madge’s husband is lost in the war above the English Channel and she and her children Lily and Cyril go to the country to stay at her relative’s house, but she doesn’t tell them the horrible news. The Doctor who heard her cry acts as the caretaker and has made everything completely Christmas proof. And he has got a big present, a box that serves as a portal to another world. When Cyril explores the box before Christmas and gets lost, the Doctor and Lily go find him and naturally Madge follows them. It’s to become the adventure of their lifetime. While saving her children, all the souls of a whole alien forest and even her husband while traveling through the Time Vortex, guiding him as a light in the dark, this episode is a truly epic one! It’s full of magical Christmas vibes, courage and sacrifice and the best mother and heroine there is. You’ll definitely need a lot of tissues for this one. But it’s human-wumany happy tears all the way.
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe is directed by Warren Blackburn and written by Steven Moffat.
The Snowmen (2012)
It’s the Eleventh Doctor’s first Christmas without his family Amy and Rory after a devastating farewell and he is very depressed. He has himself hold up in Victorian London in 1892 with his friends Madame Vastra and her wife Jenny Flint and the Sontaron Strax. He has hidden his TARDIS high up the sky, but then his help is needed by a peculiar young woman. Clara is the new governess of two children but is very interested in the Doctor when she first sees him. She even goes to Madame Vastra to find out his whereabouts. And she passes the test Vastra gives her. It’s getting even stranger when weird snowmen suddenly appear and an evil force called The Great Intelligence and Dr Simeon are behind it all. But the strangest part is that the Doctor has met Clara before as Oswin Oswald who was trapped inside a Dalek and helped him and Amy and Rory. But she died. And now at the end of this Christmas adventure Clara dies again. So she becomes the Impossible Girl and her story is far from over and she will be an important part of the Doctor’s future and past. It’s an episode full of mystery and adventure, with humor especially from Strax and also some tears.
The Snowmen is directed by Saul Metzstein and written by Steven Moffat.
The Time of the Doctor (2013)
The Eleventh Doctor, in the meantime, has discovered who Clara Oswald is, but now he has to say goodbye. It’s the second regeneration this new series and it’s again Christmas. It time to say goodbye and for a new beginning. But not before the Doctor finds out more about Gallifrey and The Silence and the tear in the wall. This special episode wraps up and explains some very important storylines and events that were centered around the Eleventh Doctor. But it has a very special start too. When Clara is about to celebrate Christmas with her granny, her dad and his new girlfriend, suddenly the Doctor shows up. Naked! And she is swept away to another planet called Trenzalore. A Christmas planet. But not to get into that holiday vibes but to investigate a strange signal. Of course Clara is delighted with a new adventure but she doesn’t know yet that she is going to lose her Doctor. It’s a great magical and tragic episode but also full of hope and a very smart story that connects everything that happend to wrap the storyline of the Doctor in a very satisfying way. Of course we have to be prepared for a heartbreaking goodbye. And Clara still has the most important part to play to save the Doctor. It’s a very epic episode that rings out the old and prepares the way for completely new stories with a new Doctor.
The Time of the Doctor is directed by Jamie Payne and written by Steven Moffat.
Last Christmas (2014)
Clara is used to this new Doctor who is very intense and a bit grumpy and totally alien and very socially awkward. But they have developed a very strong bond. In fact so strong that they are connected in a strange story. Because Santa shows up at her rooftop and so does the Doctor and he takes her to a research station at the North Pole. So prepare for a mix between The Thing and a Christmas story. Because when they arrive at the station something strange is going on and it has to do with Dreamcrabs, who totally look like facehuggers. It results in a very exciting adventure where the bond between Clara and the Doctor is shown in a very compelling way. And to top off this great Christmas episode, they get to go on a sleigh ride with Santa through the air. And we see this Twelfth Doctor having fun and laughing sincerely for the first time. But it has a darker twist that shows the love between the Doctor and Clara. It combines science fiction, a little bit of horror, adventure, humor and the fantastic chemistry between the Doctor and Clara and also a very moving ending. And of course Santa is real! And so are his reindeer and his elves who are great fun. It’s a perfect Christmas episode that brings the Spirit of love and Christmas to life.
Last Christmas is directed by Paul Wilmhurst and written by Steven Moffat.
The Husbands of River Song (2015)
While the Christmas episodes bring a lot of fun and adventure, there’s also quite often a tragic or moving touch. This one is also a great adventure but we have to say goodbye again to a great character. We already knew when we first met River Song that she died. And now that time has almost come. So there’s one more great adventure with the fierce and epic River. It’s Christmas Day when the Doctor lands on Medorac Dellora because he’s not in the mood to celebrate Christmas. Because he had to say goodbye to Clara even though he doesn’t remember her. So he’s alone again. But he soon meets River and her husband King Hydroflax. And it’s complicated, because that’s her middle name. She causes a lot of trouble that is hilarious and dangerous and the Doctor loves every minute of it and so does River. And we also meet Nardole who aids the Doctor on his new adventures. River is a great character and we get to see her one more time in action and her chemistry with the Twelfth Doctor is amazing. They bicker and love each other and he takes her off to Darillum near the Singing Towers to spend their last evening together, that luckily lasts for 24 years. It’s finally a romantic episode with a fun adventure, a great new character and a proper goodbye to River.
The Husbands of River Song is directed by Douglas Mackinnon and written by Steven Moffat.
The Return of Doctor Mysterio (2016)
This Christmas episode is the odd one out and is more a superhero origin story than that it has anything to do with Christmas. When the Doctor in 1992 is building a device on a roof top on New York he is caught by an 8 year-old boy Grant. He helps the Doctor but accidentally swallows a special gemstone Hazandra that gives him special powers and a superhero is born. The Doctor feels responsible and decides to keep an eye on him through the years. And now it’s time to help Grant to stop an alien force. The Doctor has Nardole at his side to help a superhero on his way. It strongly feels like a Superman story and the romance between Lois and Clarke but now between Lucy and Grant. Although it’s a fun story it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. Luckily Nardole brings in a lot of comic relief and the Twelfth Doctor is always a lot of grumpy fun. Nardole is a great character with dry humor and he’s smart and just like the Doctor a real alien. So they make a great pair.
The Return of Doctor Mysterio is directed by Ed Bazalgette and written by Steve Moffat.
Twice Upon A Time (2017)
Sadly we have come to the end of an era. It’s the end of the Twelfth Doctor and the end of a twelve year old tradition of Doctor Who Christmas episodes. We have to say goodbye to Steven Moffat and Murray Gold too. Everything is about to change. And to make matters worse the Doctor is in doubt if he wants to regenerate at all. Maybe it is finally enough and he’s done. But he’s not the first Doctor with these feelings and surprisingly he and the First Doctor land at the same spot at the same time which causes a time flux. And the First Doctor has the same doubts. Together with a WOI soldier they go on an epic adventure that gives them new insights. It’s an episode that centers around the Doctor himself and what he stands for and what he represents. It’s a very epic episode that results in a heartbreaking goodbye. He reminds himself to love and not to hate. To be nice and kind and to jump into the next adventure. It’s a wonderful send off. It’s bittersweet but with a powerful message. And we are going to need it because Doctor Who will never be the same again.
Twice Upon A Time is directed by Rachel Talalay and written by Steven Moffat.